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The MakEY project

The MakEY project was an international research project led by the University of Sheffield. In this video, Alison explains more.
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Our work on makerspaces at the University of Sheffield has grown out of a number of research projects we’ve undertaken over the past few years. The first project was one called ‘Makerspaces in the early years’ or MakEY. This project was funded by the EU Commission and involved seven countries in the EU and the US. We also had international partners in Australia, Canada, Colombia, and South Africa. The aim of the project was to look at the value of makerspaces for early years education. It seemed to us that if we’re going to get children interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths, this has to be done early, in ways that really align with the early years philosophy and practice.
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Therefore we took an approach, from the beginning, in which the arts, narrative storytelling, play, and creativity were all embedded in the approach to STEM learning in maker spaces. In each of the countries involved, the project took a slightly different form. In Denmark, because of course, that’s the home of LEGO, the team there explored children’s responses to opportunities to create, when they had access to a room full of those lovely little bricks, alongside the use of technology such as tablets and smartphones. In Finland, they’ve recently introduced a really innovative multi-literacies curriculum. It was very forward thinking.
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And so the use of makerspace in schools and libraries there, was about giving children the opportunities to extend and practise some of the skills that would have been developed in the curriculum. In Germany, the team were looking at the use of virtual reality technologies to enable children there to explore their imaginations, to tell stories, and communicate with each other. In Iceland, there are seven or eight Fab Labs. And these all have a valuable role to play in fostering making. The team conducted a number of innovative projects in which children and families were given opportunities to create a wide range of technologies.
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The research team in Norway work with the Norwegian Science Museum and considered how the museum could extend their makerspace provision to under eights. They worked with the local kindergarten and were looking at particular resources and tools, such as bee bots, to engage children in STEM learning. In Romania, the team focused on after-school clubs, in which children learned coding and engaged in robotics activities around the theme of space. And they produce some really exciting work. In the US, the team were working with three museums in the Bay Area of San Francisco, and considered the ways in which parents engage with children in makerspaces. They examined how they might support children, or stand back and watch, or even sometimes take over perhaps.
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And so they developed a classification framework for helping us to understand the relationship between parents and making. In the Sheffield project, we work with three early year settings in schools and undertook a range of creative making activities, in which children learned how to use electronics equipment, 3D printers, and other technologies. And they learned about laser cutting. It was very much an approach in which the technologies didn’t come first, but they were there to support the children’s explorations and imaginative designs. Altogether it was a really very exciting project, and we learned a great deal from it. We learned that makerspaces have great value for the early years. And in fact integrate really well into early years approaches to making.
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The project did orientate some children, who may not otherwise have been interested in STEM subjects, to learning about these disciplines. And it also developed children’s critical thinking and creative design skills. We wanted to really build on the success of this project, and so in Sheffield, we set up the MakerFutures programme. This is a very exciting programme of work, in which we’re involved in developing resources, tools, guides, and so on, for practitioners in schools, nurseries, museums, libraries, and community spaces to use. We conduct research on a range of areas related to makerspaces. And we’re involved in outreach work, through the use of our mobile makerspace van, and also training. You can find out about this project at our website.
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Throughout this course, we’ll be referring to both of these projects and guiding you to resources that you can look at, at your leisure.

Our work on makerspaces at the University of Sheffield has grown out of a number of research projects we have undertaken over the past few years.

In this video, Alison explains one called ‘Makerspaces in the early years’ – or MakEY – which looked at the value of making in early years education. She explains the work undertaken by academics at Sheffield and by colleagues across the world.

You can find out more about MakEY by visiting the project website and you can also learn about the University project Maker{Futures} by visiting their website.

The MakEY project explored the value of makerspaces for fostering young children’s learning. One of the key principles that underpinned its approach was the use of inquiry-based learning in which children followed their interests, explored the world around them by asking questions, and tried to address problems.

What do you feel is the value of an inquiry-led approach to learning? How can makerspaces offer opportunities for this kind of approach?

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